Gemma Oaten: How nutrition and healthy eating is important for both humans and dogs

In support of Eating Disorders Week (1-7 March 2021), Poppy’s Picnic has teamed up with our ambassador and soap star, Gemma Oaten, to highlight the importance of nutrition for humans, but also our four-legged friends. In this blog, Gemma opens up about her experience with anorexia and how appreciating good nutrition enables her to be a great pet parent to Ruby Tuesday.

Did you know that eating disorders affect between 1.25 – 3.4 million of us in the UK alone? And this is only of the ones who are suffering with the illness. Imagine the scale of those also affected as loved ones? The parents, partners, siblings, friends? While eating disorders are well known in humans, not many people, specifically pup parents, know how some dogs can develop unusual eating habits when they are not eating a nutritious diet - which can be equally worrying. 

I’m proud to feed Ruby Tuesday a complete, balanced raw dog food diet such as Poppy’s Picnic because I understand myself just how important getting the right nutrition is. Their raw dog food recipes have been developed by a nutritional consultant using high-quality natural ingredients to keep our four-legged friends in tip top condition. If you can only see how excited Ruby Tuesday gets as she wags her tail during dinner time!

Seeing how healthy and happy she is - and how much she’s thriving today means I’ve done right by her. However interestingly, Ruby and I had a little battle recently in lockdown where she stopped eating on her own, and the only way she would eat was when I hand fed her. This was not usual and I also noted she was starting to wonder off and ‘do her own thing’, I am pretty sure she forgot her own name at one point which was really worrying. As a result of this, my anxiety was sky high and I knew deep down I was over compensating by giving her everything ‘I’ thought she needed to be happy. So I booked an appointment with a dog behaviourist. Low and behold came the feedback I expected. I was no longer ‘top dog’ and Ruby ruled the roost! I had to start getting leadership status back and no more hand feeding…and no more over filling with treats! I have worked so hard with her since then and the difference in her has been unreal. Her delicious Poppy’s picnic is now devoured again with no need for treats being doled out like candy.

There is a reason why I am sharing this. Firstly, we as pet parents sometimes get it wrong and upon talking to others, I am understanding even more now that a lot of it comes from us. Our self-doubt, our need to please and our insecurities as people. A dog needs and loves rules, the bond grows even greater once you start implementing them.

Secondly, there is a link with eating disorders as humans and behaviours in dogs. An eating disorder in a human can trick the mind into thinking you can control of things you are unable to control externally. But it doesn’t. In fact, it takes away all control. I know as I lost 13 years of my life and so many childhood experiences were robbed. I almost lost everything…I lost control of everything.

Now I can see just how Ruby transformed when I took back control of the situation and allowed her to not have the option of destructive behaviours. Of course, I know it’s not east as that for us as human beings and I am in no way saying this is how to react to loved ones struggling, but there is a parallel. Ruby is now happier and calmer. Her recall is amazing and she is eating her nutritious raw food with the love and joy it’s there for her health and wellbeing again.

Healthy eating and nutrition has always been extremely important to me which is why I care that Ruby Tuesday gets the best diet she can have. I had my own battle with anorexia for 13 years from the age of 10 years old. Unfortunately back when I was ill, there weren’t many support services readily available. Because of that, my Mum and Dad set up a charity called SEED (Support and Empathy for Eating Disorders) which is now a nationwide and internationally known charity. 

We have a resource centre in Hull where we run a drop-in scheme, support groups, email buddy scheme, and carer workshops. We also work with schools to raise awareness of eating disorders and the importance of nutrition and education around eating disorders, body image and well-being. Early intervention is key to prevention. I have been a patron of SEED for the last 10 years now as I had decided that once I was better, I wanted to help others. Just last year I became our Manager. Lived experience matters, and those 13 years? Not a waste at all in my eyes, because I use my story for good. To help others. To grow flowers were dirt used to be. To help seeds thrive and blossom.

We’ve heard from so many people saying how the charity has helped them in their own battles and we hope to continue making a difference. That is why I am very grateful for Poppy’s Picnic in highlighting and supporting SEED this Eating Disorders Awareness Week and ongoing, as well their continued efforts in highlighting the importance of feeding a balanced, nutritious diet to our dogs - I know it will continue to help even more, both people and dogs in the future.

If you or anyone you know need support with an eating disorder, SEED is there for you. For more information, visit our website. Donations are so welcome right now also as we try to survive the current pandemic, no matter how big or small. It all makes a difference to us being able to support those who need us. You can do this via our website too. 

And if you want to make sure you are giving you dog the best it deserves and needs. Our lovely woof friends at Poppy’s Picnic have all you need.

Stay safe, stay healthy and keep being the best you can be. For you and your pooches. You matter.

Love, Gemma x 

Gemma oaten stands, holding her grey dog Ruby Tuesday